There is tremendous good which can come out of the present brouhaha concerning the recent investiture of persons at the Bar and Bench with the title of Senior Counsel, if only for the fact that it makes us as a nation, examine the entire process and try to reform, repeal or re-make the process and the system, so that it is not accused of merely being a silken road towards self-aggrandisement, self-praise and self-enrichment.
Every Tom, Dick and Harrypaul
Public outcry has arisen and justifiably so, over the manner of the present appointments and unlike on previous occasions where there may have been more discussion about the persons who did not get silk on this occasion, the entire process has been sullied and tarnished by the raging debates about who got, so the whole lot is thereby affected by what has been described as a granting of silk to every Tom, Dick and Harrypaul.
AG deserving on merit, ability
The unfortunate thing about this is that there remains within the lot, quite a few deserving candidates on merit and ability alone, and chief among these is the present Attorney General. His undeniable record as a trailblazer and legal maverick is beyond question. From the Trinity Cross matter to the Maha Sabha radio licence case to the case for George Daniel on behalf of the disabled, Anand’s record and legacy have left a lasting impression on the legal landscape of T&T. It is regrettable that the process as currently applied, involves the input of the Attorney General in the recommendations. Had it not been for this, and for the appearance of transparency and arm’s-length dealing, Anand’s appointment would have been the single leading appointment that would have been without question on merit, talent and ability.
One is sure now, that in hindsight, he recognises that he would have risen even more in the esteem of all citizens of this nation, and indeed the wider Caribbean, had he publicly declined and declared that despite suggestions and urgings to nominate himself, and despite the fact that precedent had been set by previous office holders, he was now setting a new standard of ethics, responsibility, decorum, decency and accountability in public affairs, by refusing to put his name forward or declining to accept or keep the title.
Raising the Bar and becoming a Caribbean legend
This would have immediately set him in the legendary company of our own beloved David “Dappie” Patrick, who has been known to be reluctant to accept such honour, despite having been more than eminently qualified. It would also have pitched Anand up into the hallowed realms of the Jamaican Counsel Ramsay, who has refused to accept the honour on principle and would have given him an elevated Caricom-wide status and statesmanship. Had he declined the honour, then at whatever time in the future, Mr Ramlogan demitted office as Attorney General, the public outcry to have him immediately invested with the title of Senior Counsel would have been automatic, immediate and inexorable—no petty politics could ever stop that. Anand, by such a show of statesmanship, magnanimity and selflessness, would have set himself apart, far from the maddening crowd and he would have moved up the totem pole of Caribbean legal history, from being great, into the league of the super greats, but there is still time and room, for this to be possible.
Why stop at Judges? Masters, magistrates and registrars too.
Mr Karl Hudson Phillips, QC; Mr Michael De La Bastide TC QC; and former President and prime minister ANR Robinson OC; TC; SC have all commented on what is being described as the inappropriateness of sitting judges jockeying and queuing up in the line with Counsel at the Bar, seeking their servings of a few pieces of silk. Their comments are well worth noting and considering because it opens up a whole can of worms both within and without the Judiciary as to what went on behind the scenes. Were there other judges who applied and were rejected, or others who, unsolicited, had their names thrust forward for consideration and were discarded to the scrap heaps to wait for the next round of lobbying, jousting and negotiating for silk.
Does obtaining SC behind your name, make you more eligible for promotional training and advancement opportunities within the Judiciary? Surely it shouldn’t be, otherwise this opens the floodgates for a plethora of applications from judges, anyway why stop at judges? Let magistrates, registrars and masters also throw their hats in the ring and make it one big judicial “silkfest.” One obviously sees the logical absurdity of giving way to this trend. The fact that something inappropriate may have been done in the past, does not purge it of said inappropriateness if it is repeated in 2011. The time has come for us to stand up and break the cycle, to stop the trend.
Self investiture with titles
When did we as a nation become so obsessed with titles, tokens and trinkets? This question posited, is not limited to the award of the title of Senior Counsel, it is a general observation on the state of the nation. When did we reach to the stage where despite whatever position, power or prestige we hold, it is never enough and we must seek and crave more? So even if I am Prime Minister, I must still heap honours upon myself through a process of almost self investiture with the title of Senior Counsel. This is so, even though Attorney Clarence Rambarath, in his typical frank and forthright manner, has set out a prodigious argument in his weekly column, to show that the Prime Minister, even on merit, cannot deserve the title of Senior Counsel. I look forward to her using her newly acquired status of silk, to try to rebut Mr Rambarath on this point.
Written by: Principal Attorney, Martin A. George
PUBLISHED BY: The Trinidad Guardian